Don’t worry, be healthier — one small step at a time

Don’t worry, be healthier — one small step at a time

Canadian comedian shares his journey from worried dad to man with a plan to make manageable lifestyle changes.

For many Canadian guys, this bit from Toby Hargrave’s stand-up comedy routine is funny because it’s true: “I’m at that age where sometimes things hurt and I have no idea why. If you’re 20 and you show up to work with a limp there’s always some kind of epic adventure behind it. Today I show up with a limp and people are like, “What happened?” And I’m like, “I don’t know!”

Toby, 44, describes himself as “spectacularly average.” The actor and comedian, who lives with his young family on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, carries about 265 pounds on his six-foot-tall frame. He has spent most of his adult life drinking alcohol almost every day, and does most of the cooking in his household. With “comfort foods like ribs, roasts and pierogies” among his favourite dishes, counting calories has been a foreign concept. With a family to support and career to pursue, exercise tends to end up on the back burner.

About a year ago, following the birth of his second child, Toby began to worry about his health (or lack thereof). Then he was informed about a partnership between Telus Corp. and the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation — the organisation behind the blog you’re reading — to produce a men’s health documentary. Toby’s goal of learning how to be healthier and lose weight turned out to be a perfect fit for the video at the top of this page, while his hilarious credentials speak for themselves.

Toby Hargrave in his garage thinking

Step 1: YouCheck

Before his concerns arose, Toby jokes that “an undiagnosed case of lazy” prevented him from learning more about the state of his health and how to improve it. His first move, then, is to assess his health using the CMHF’s YouCheck tool. The free online survey asks 18 questions about health history and lifestyle, and then assesses the risk of developing eight of the most common diseases and conditions among Canadian men.

“That first step wasn’t so hard,” Toby says after using YouCheck. With a couple of flags raised, but no imminent dangers detected, he moves on to Step 2…

Toby Hargrave by beach standing tall on a log

Step 2: See your doctor

Next Toby meets with Dr. Robert Menzies, a Vancouver-based family doctor. As part of the appointment Toby had already undergone a battery of standard medical tests, and is clearly relieved when Dr. Menzies gives him the all-clear. “It’s freeing when you have all this information that you need to know,” Toby says. “I’m not saying I don’t have to worry about my health, but I’m now not worried that my liver is about to fail. I’m not worried I’m about to develop Type 2 Diabetes by next week.”

However, Dr. Menzies does have some important suggestions. “We try to encourage people to drink no more than two drinks a day as an adult male,” he says. Toby chuckles in response, but the message is clear: Less alcohol, even a little bit less each day, can have big health benefits.

Losing a few pounds would also improve Toby’s health, the GP says, adding that “the main thing is that you stay fit and active and watch what you eat. If you do that, usually, you’ll find that the pounds do come off. It’s not about making a huge change, it’s about making a bunch of little changes here and there.”

What kind of little changes? Watch the video, or keep reading…

Step 3: Re-think the supermarket

Toby heads to a local supermarket with Ned Bell, the Vancouver Aquarium’s executive chef. Ned nudges Toby away from his favourite section of the store — the red meat section — and into the seafood section. “We have this idea that (meals) need to be big, but I’d prefer you to eat quality,” Ned says, encouraging Toby to try healthier fish instead of massive steaks. If he wants to eat more of something, Ned adds, he can always enjoy as many fruits and vegetables as he wants!

Toby is skeptical at first, but when his four-year-old daughter asks for a second helping of asparagus, “I realized that I might be doing something right,” he says. Since then, Toby has “rediscovered salads,” and makes meals that incorporate ingredients like pita bread, small amounts of feta cheese, tomatoes, olives and chicken. “After you’re done eating,” he quips, “you don’t feel like you ate a bowling ball.” He has also reduced his alcohol intake, as Dr. Menzies suggested, and swapped sugary soda pop for water.

Toby Hargrave biking with dog

Step 4: Exercise

The cameras follow Toby to a barbecue restaurant, where he meets with two buddies. They discuss their efforts to live healthier, with Toby saying that the biggest bombshell from his recent medical checkup “was that there were no bombshells.”

When the topic of exercise comes up, Toby admits that he doesn’t do much. That’s when the offer is made: Would Toby like to join one of his friends for a run in the park?

See how that pans out, and check out more easy steps for getting fit, by watching the video.

This article was originally published on January 6, 2019.

Photography by: Ken Cheng

Don’t worry, be healthier — one small step at a time

Don’t worry, be healthier — one small step at a time

Canadian comedian shares his journey from worried dad to man with a plan to make manageable lifestyle changes.

For many Canadian guys, this bit from Toby Hargrave’s stand-up comedy routine is funny because it’s true: “I’m at that age where sometimes things hurt and I have no idea why. If you’re 20 and you show up to work with a limp there’s always some kind of epic adventure behind it. Today I show up with a limp and people are like, “What happened?” And I’m like, “I don’t know!”

Toby, 44, describes himself as “spectacularly average.” The actor and comedian, who lives with his young family on British Columbia’s Sunshine Coast, carries about 265 pounds on his six-foot-tall frame. He has spent most of his adult life drinking alcohol almost every day, and does most of the cooking in his household. With “comfort foods like ribs, roasts and pierogies” among his favourite dishes, counting calories has been a foreign concept. With a family to support and career to pursue, exercise tends to end up on the back burner.

About a year ago, following the birth of his second child, Toby began to worry about his health (or lack thereof). Then he was informed about a partnership between Telus Corp. and the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation — the organisation behind the blog you’re reading — to produce a men’s health documentary. Toby’s goal of learning how to be healthier and lose weight turned out to be a perfect fit for the video at the top of this page, while his hilarious credentials speak for themselves.

Toby Hargrave in his garage thinking

Step 1: YouCheck

Before his concerns arose, Toby jokes that “an undiagnosed case of lazy” prevented him from learning more about the state of his health and how to improve it. His first move, then, is to assess his health using the CMHF’s YouCheck tool. The free online survey asks 18 questions about health history and lifestyle, and then assesses the risk of developing eight of the most common diseases and conditions among Canadian men.

“That first step wasn’t so hard,” Toby says after using YouCheck. With a couple of flags raised, but no imminent dangers detected, he moves on to Step 2…

Toby Hargrave by beach standing tall on a log

Step 2: See your doctor

Next Toby meets with Dr. Robert Menzies, a Vancouver-based family doctor. As part of the appointment Toby had already undergone a battery of standard medical tests, and is clearly relieved when Dr. Menzies gives him the all-clear. “It’s freeing when you have all this information that you need to know,” Toby says. “I’m not saying I don’t have to worry about my health, but I’m now not worried that my liver is about to fail. I’m not worried I’m about to develop Type 2 Diabetes by next week.”

However, Dr. Menzies does have some important suggestions. “We try to encourage people to drink no more than two drinks a day as an adult male,” he says. Toby chuckles in response, but the message is clear: Less alcohol, even a little bit less each day, can have big health benefits.

Losing a few pounds would also improve Toby’s health, the GP says, adding that “the main thing is that you stay fit and active and watch what you eat. If you do that, usually, you’ll find that the pounds do come off. It’s not about making a huge change, it’s about making a bunch of little changes here and there.”

What kind of little changes? Watch the video, or keep reading…

Step 3: Re-think the supermarket

Toby heads to a local supermarket with Ned Bell, the Vancouver Aquarium’s executive chef. Ned nudges Toby away from his favourite section of the store — the red meat section — and into the seafood section. “We have this idea that (meals) need to be big, but I’d prefer you to eat quality,” Ned says, encouraging Toby to try healthier fish instead of massive steaks. If he wants to eat more of something, Ned adds, he can always enjoy as many fruits and vegetables as he wants!

Toby is skeptical at first, but when his four-year-old daughter asks for a second helping of asparagus, “I realized that I might be doing something right,” he says. Since then, Toby has “rediscovered salads,” and makes meals that incorporate ingredients like pita bread, small amounts of feta cheese, tomatoes, olives and chicken. “After you’re done eating,” he quips, “you don’t feel like you ate a bowling ball.” He has also reduced his alcohol intake, as Dr. Menzies suggested, and swapped sugary soda pop for water.

Toby Hargrave biking with dog

Step 4: Exercise

The cameras follow Toby to a barbecue restaurant, where he meets with two buddies. They discuss their efforts to live healthier, with Toby saying that the biggest bombshell from his recent medical checkup “was that there were no bombshells.”

When the topic of exercise comes up, Toby admits that he doesn’t do much. That’s when the offer is made: Would Toby like to join one of his friends for a run in the park?  

See how that pans out, and check out more easy steps for getting fit, by watching the video.

Photography by: Ken Cheng

Unhealthy habits? Crazy expensive! Curbing them? Free and easy!

Unhealthy habits? Crazy expensive! Curbing them? Free and easy!

Picture this: You’re a contestant in one of those old-school game shows. The host smiles and says, “Behind door No. 1…we have…a new car!” The wild applause finally dies down, and then it’s time to open door No. 2: “It’s a luxury vacation!” Pretty sweet, right?

The tension builds as the polyester-clad cheeseball saunters over to the final door. “Or,” he says, winking, “you could choose what’s behind door No. 3…which is…wait for it…a year’s supply of cigarettes, alcohol and fast food!”

Some audience members start yelling “Take the car!” Others scream, “The trip! The trip!” How many point at the smokes, booze and deep-fried junk? Not a single one.

Little do they know that all three things are worth more or less THE SAME AMOUNT.

Unhealthy habits cost you big time

That’s right: Over your lifetime, a 2015 study found, the cost of knocking back five drinks a day, smoking two packs a day and carrying an extra 150 pounds of body weight can add up to about the same amount as getting a new car or taking a luxury vacation every single year.

But wait, there’s more: What would happen if you quit smoking and drinking, shed that excess weight, and invested all the money you saved for the next 45 years? Brace yourself: Including savings on life insurance, you’d be a whopping $8.6 million richer. Imagine that pile of cash behind Door No. 4!

Cutting back on those unhealthy habits helps a lot, no doubt, but one drink and five cigarettes a day, along with 70 extra pounds, still adds up to $1.7 million over your lifetime. Ugh!

No one likes to lose money, let alone millions of dollars, but there is some good news here: The more you chip away at those unhealthy habits, the closer they get to costing nothing at all. Wondering how to break unhealthy habits? Let’s look at some easy ways to get there!

Easy tips for drinking less

Use different glasses: Studies have shown that people pour less wine into narrow glasses than wide ones, which in turn reduces the rate of consumption, and that leaving a glass on the table instead of holding it yields a smaller pour. Likewise, straight-sided beer glasses with measurement markings slow down the rate at which we drink.

Glasses half full: Again, studies have shown that filling glasses only halfway up results in significant reductions in booze intake.

Drink liquor on the rocks: Adding ice to drinks dilutes them, cutting the alcohol content (by volume) and reducing the frequency of refills.

Steer clear of boozy situations: Parties or nights on the town lead to drinking. Controlling the environment — say, by inviting friends to your home for dinner — can lead to less alcohol consumption.

Stop equating fun with alcohol: Make a list of activities you enjoy that don’t have to involve booze — playing sports, gardening, photography, getting it on, the list goes on — and slot them in at those times when you’re likely to be tempted to drink.

Easy tips for quitting smoking

Cut down slowly: Carefully track the number of cigarettes you smoke each day, and then reduce that number by one each day. If you currently smoke 40 a day, for instance, that gives you almost six weeks to get down to zero — and that journey can be made much easier by using the tips that follow…

Find a Quit Buddy: Whether it’s a friend, family member or co-worker, a Quit Buddy is someone you can count on to support you in your journey to kick the habit. If they’ve quit smoking themselves, all the better, but what really matters is that they’ve got your back.

Call a free Quit Coach: Simply dial 1-877-455-2233 to connect with a specialized expert who can assess your readiness to quit smoking, help you pick a quit date, and help establish a quit plan that includes tips and tools to get you ready. Once your quit date arrives, your coach will call to check on your progress, review the challenges, reinforce your reasons for quitting, provide new coping strategies, and help you get back on track if you’ve had a slip. Learn more here.

Use free text support: Texting QUITNOW to 654321 will launch a free three-month mobile texting service that sends you supportive messages and quit tips based on your quit date. Learn more here.

Talk to your doctor or pharmacist: Over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapies such as patches and chewing gum, as well as prescription medications like Varenicline and Bupropion, can help reduce cravings and boost your chances of quitting. Learn more here.

Easy tips for losing weight

Drink more water: This fills up your stomach and makes you feel less hungry, which curtails cravings for unhealthy snacks and late-night junk food. Dietitians Canada recommends that guys aim for about six large glasses every day, so knock back one when you get out of bed, one with every meal — we’re up to four glasses already! — polish off another throughout the day, and finish with a final glass a few hours before bed.

Take the stairs: Bypass the elevator or escalator and you’ll burn around 10 calories per minute while strengthening the biggest muscles in your legs. If a climb takes five minutes, and you make the climb twice a day — when you get to work and after lunch, let’s say — you’ll burn around 100 calories. Easy, right?

Try food swaps: Replacing unhealthy foods with healthy ones makes a big difference to your weight and overall health in the long run. Instead of choosing fatty, sugary or salty snacks or meals, simply go for healthier alternatives: Nuts instead of potato chips, whole-grain bread instead of white bread, a side salad instead of french fries, the list of tasty and satisfying swaps goes on and on.

Take the Weekly Fitness Challenge: Think working out has to take hours and requires a gym membership and fancy equipment? Think again! From lunging around the office to doing push-ups while watching the big game, the Weekly Fitness Challenge slides exercise seamlessly into your schedule.

Roll up your sleeve to let the good times roll

Roll up your sleeve to let the good times roll

How are the next 10 days shaping up? Maybe you’re working hard (or hardly working). Could be you’ve got some family fun planned. Perhaps there’s a poker night in the cards, or an afternoon of ball-watching (or ball throwing) with your buds. And whatever you do, don’t forget about date night with your significant other!

Sounds pretty sweet. Now, imagine spending those 10 days flat on your back in bed (and not in a good way with your significant other). You’re feverish, coughing, stuffed up, and your head and body ache like mad. In short, you’ve got the flu, which typically takes anywhere from seven to 10 days to go away. If things take a turn for the worse, however, the flu could morph into pneumonia or respiratory failure, or worsen an existing respiratory condition. This could be life-threatening, which isn’t sweet in any way, shape or form.

The good news: There’s a quick, safe, easy and free way to prevent the flu and its nasty fallout. As you probably already know, it’s called the flu shot, and it’s recommended for every guy in Canada because it’s proven to reduce the number of doctor visits, hospitalizations, and even deaths related to the flu. The shot is different each year because the flu virus changes frequently, so you need to get it EVERY FALL.  

So in addition to stopping the flu from deep-sixing your plans, your paycheque and even your life — as if that’s not reason enough — here are five MORE reasons to get the shot ASAP:

It helps keep loved ones safe

Getting the flu shot isn’t just about protecting YOUR health. If you get the flu, all that sneezing and coughing could easily spread the virus to friends and loved ones who may not have had the shot themselves. This is particularly dangerous for young children, the elderly and pregnant women, who all tend to be less capable of fighting off disease. Kids’ airways are also smaller and more easily blocked, while seniors are more likely to have underlying respiratory conditions.

It’s easy for kids to get the shot   

Of course, making sure your kids get the flu shot reduces the risk of infection and health complications even more. And because some children freak out at the sight of a needle, the vaccine is available as a nasal spray to kids between the ages of 2 and 17. Talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner to find out more.

It’s available everywhere

Don’t have time to get the flu shot? Baloney! If you’re wondering where to get your flu shot, look no further than your doctor’s office, participating pharmacies and local public health units, where it takes mere minutes for trained staff to administer it.

Select your province for a list of nearby health units:

It’s safe

Despite what you might have read on various panicky “anti-vaxxer” websites, all flu vaccines are subject to Health Canada’s very strict requirements. Every single batch is tested for safety and quality before it is used, and is then closely monitored for side effects once it starts to be administered. Serious side effects, by the way, are extremely rare, with the most common side effect being mild soreness where you get the injection. Mild soreness vs. being down for the count for 10 days? It’s a no-brainer!

It doesn’t kick in right away

If you’ve decided to get the flu shot this year — great call, by the way — there’s no time like the present. After all, flu season typically runs from late fall to early spring, after all, and the shot takes two weeks to take effect.

Are you trying to get a handle on your health? If so, we’ve got your back!

Download the free “Men’s Maintenance Guide” right now.

Find out where you stand on the healthy-unhealthy scale

Find out where you stand on the healthy-unhealthy scale

In Major League Baseball, going 0 for 5 on a regular basis gets you sent to the minors. Going 2 for 5, however, makes you a multi-millionaire. But when we replace those five plate appearances with five unhealthy habits, the outcomes reverse and the stakes suddenly get much, much higher.

According to a recent survey by the Canadian Men’s Health Foundation, 72 percent of Canadian guys regularly demonstrate two or more unhealthy habits out of a list of five red flags: Sixty-two percent have an unhealthy diet, 54 percent sleep too little (or too much), 49 percent don’t get enough exercise, 39 percent drink unhealthy amounts of alcohol, and 20 percent smoke cigarettes. What are unhealthy lifestyle habits? Those five are the big ones, as a recent Harvard study also suggests.

Where do YOU stand?

Before you can find out where your habits fit into these health stats, the five unhealthy factors needs to be defined. For example: What kind of diet is unhealthy? How much alcohol is too much? Here’s how the five unhealthy behaviours break down according to the survey:

  1. Unhealthy eating: Consuming foods that are high in salt, refined sugar, or saturated fats more than once a week is unhealthy. Eating less than five fruit and vegetable servings in a day is also unhealthy.
  2. Alcohol consumption: Anything more than 3 drinks per day 5 days a week, or more than 6 drinks in one sitting, is considered unhealthy.
  3. Lack of exercise: Less than 150 minutes of moderate-to-strenuous exercise per week is unhealthy.
  4. Poor sleep: 7-9 hours is the sweet spot. Any more or less than this is unhealthy.
  5. Smoking: Any amount of smoking is bad for you.

If none of these unhealthy behaviours are part of your life, then the study says you are “very healthy.” Well done! Trouble is, only 6 percent of guys actually fit that description. Those that have one unhealthy habit are deemed “healthy” and account for 22 percent of the total, while the two-habit “borderline” crowd makes up 31 percent. The largest group, 42 percent of respondents, exhibits three or more unhealthy behaviours and are considered “unhealthy.”

 

A man considering a donut

The big benefit of healthier living

The findings of the health survey were very similar to those of the aforementioned study out of Harvard University. By using lifestyle questionnaires and medical records from 123,000 American volunteers, researchers identified five behaviours that together contribute to longer life expectancy: Following a healthy diet, controlling body weight, doing regular exercise, drinking alcohol in moderation, and not smoking.

Sound familiar? The long-term study then went on to compare the life expectancy of volunteers who did none of the healthy things with men who did all five. The healthy guys came up big, with their life expectancy at age 50 jumping by 12 years (from 76 to 88). This five-healthy-behaviours crew was also 65 percent less likely to die of cancer, and 82 percent less likely to die of heart disease.

The takeaway here: Live healthier and you’ll live longer! This is blog for a wealth of easy tips to help you achieve these healthy habits.

Another great health resource

The Men’s Maintenance Guide ebook provides a straightforward, common sense health-maintenance checklist based on your age. If you’re 20 to 39, for instance, you should have your blood pressure checked every two years. Guys aged 40-54, meanwhile, should start having their prostate health checked every two years. For more tips on what to check and when to check it, download The Men’s Maintenance Guide for free today!

Do you have a clear picture of your health? Download our free eBook Where Do You Stand? See how your health compares to other Canadian men.

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